13 Most Memorable Moments: Lok Sabha Elections 2024

The key turning points that defined a truly tumultuous general election

Founding Fuel

[Photos from ECI]

The curtains are gradually coming down on the Lok Sabha elections 2024. By all accounts, this has been one of the most contentious, divisive and tightly fought elections in recent times. It was hard not to be swept up in its fervour, intensity and emotion.

There were many truly memorable moments. Moments that provide a sneak peek into how the world’s largest democracy was changing—or not. Voices from both the Raja and the Praja (politicians and common people) from around the country that capture not just the ebb and flow, but also our way of life.

How are you likely to remember these elections? 

We invited valued members of the Founding Fuel community to share the most memorable moments that stood out for them — snatches from a truly significant interview or an election speech, a meme, a cartoon, a song, a standup act, an extract from a vox pop…any artefact that best captures the mood and the emotion of what has been a defining election in many ways.

Here’s what emerged.

1. Hope flickers to life   

- Sachin Kalbag, columnist, policy consultant and podcaster

Before the results, there was despondence; after the results, hope. Hope is a strong state of being. 

Therefore, even if childishly:

1. I hope we bring back institutional integrity

2. I hope the fear of an angry electorate is put back into the minds of our politicians

3. I hope we bring empathy and honesty back into our public discourse

4. I hope our media remembers its first and only job: to hold those in power accountable

5. I hope our writers, our journalists, our public intellectuals, our cartoonists, are not targeted for critiquing or criticising the government

6. I hope all Indians are able to enter a police station without fear, and I hope people of all castes can enter a temple without fear

7. I hope the Constitution is regarded as the holiest book in the land

8. I hope that no citizen is made to wonder where our taxes go

9. I hope that India remains a nation of Indians; not of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc

10. I hope that two men and two women who are in love with each other can marry each other

11. I hope that a woman and a man from different religions or different castes can marry each other without getting murdered

12. I hope we have more tigers than we can take care of

13. I hope entrepreneurs don't have to walk into a maze of regulations only to eventually give up

14. I hope our data does not lie, and finally,

15. I hope we, the people of India, are not taken for granted

The moment: “Tantra pe Lok ki Vijay” — The Triumph of the People

Quote: The Swaraj India co-founder said: “This happens very very rarely that a political party which is in command of everything, which has money, which has all the mainstream media, which has the entire establishment — unfortunately even the election commission — that is defeated the way it is.”

The key moment of the election was not any election campaign speech. The seeds of the revival of India's soul were sown by the Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. Rahul Gandhi is no Holy Grail, but his actions revitalised the opposition and stopped the country from falling into a spiral of unbridled authoritarianism. 

As a media person, it was Yogendra Yadav's calm and understated response (watch time: 18:35 mins) to Rahul Kanwal and Rajdeep Sardesai during an interview with India Today that could, hopefully, become the turning point of India's media going back to its core values.

2. Media and the voice of the people  

- Sveta Basraon, editor and founding member, Founding Fuel 

Where mainstream TV channels sang just one tune, YouTubers, social media and independent journalists brought us an alternative voice. And #Elections2024 perhaps marked the mainstreaming of vox pop journalism, providing us an opportunity to listen to common people at tea shops in the rural hinterland, rather than experts seated inside AC studios in Noida. 

The moment: News24 journalist Rajeev Ranjan who anchors the show ‘Mahaul Kya Hai?’ put it succinctly: “Jo sarkar ke samarthak hain, woh TV dekhte hain… Jo sarkar pe sawal uthana chahte hai, woh log social media dekhte hain."  [Those who favour the government watch TV news. Those who want to question the government watch social media.] 

Watch his impromptu interview (from 13:05) to Newslaundry, where he talks about the art of vox pop and getting people to open up and speak what’s truly on their minds.

3. The media’s echo chamber 

- Aayush Soni, independent journalist

Two distinct moments stand out for me.

Moment 1: Modi’s hateful speech in Banswara, Rajasthan: He set the tone for his election campaign on April 21 with a vile, hateful speech in which he called Muslims “infiltrators” and “those who have 10 children”. No Prime Minister has used such derogatory language for his own citizens ever. The best part is that it didn’t work. The BJP candidate lost the seat, signalling that the public was in no mood to accept anti-Muslim rhetoric. (Link courtesy the Mojo Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3yBih3Jzag )

Moment 2: Economist Parakala Prabhakar predicts Modi’s downfall: He was among the few people to have stuck his neck out and predicted the Modi government’s defeat. In a withering interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire’s YouTube channel on May 15, he said that the BJP would get anywhere between 200-220 seats. His numbers may have been slightly off the mark but his overall prediction was spot on. Towards the end of the chat, Prabhakar told Thapar that “dictators either end up in coffins or in handcuffs” when asked about the future of Narendra Modi — as if to twist the knife further (Full interview link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ6J3-j5xiA&t=9s ) (Clip: https://www.youtubetrimmer.com/view/?v=PJ6J3-j5xiA&start=2050&end=2100&loop=0)


4. Rage of the common man

- Anuradha Sengupta, independent journalist & producer 

My first submission is from Barkha Dutt’s ground reportage. In Lucknow she was talking to a gentleman called Ansar Hussain. Breathing fire, Mr.Hussain expressed the frustration, anguish, and rage of a common man who also happened to be Muslim. I felt sucker punched the first time I saw it. I feel sucker punched when I see it today because it is the story of Uttar Pradesh. The heart of journalism is reportage and if all media houses focussed on reportage through the year, day in and day out, and not just during elections, our political class and system would function not as benefactors who were doling out schemes to ‘labharthis’ [beneficiaries] but as service providers whose job it is to deliver. Or be sacked. 

On ground interaction: https://x.com/bdutt/status/1792806412529365446?s=48 

My second submission is an ad: In the digital age when the big ad has fewer takers this bit of political advertising captured what even the most diehard BJP and Modi supporters could not but help notice. Modi’s maniacal megalomania. Blitzkrieg-ing us over a seven-phase election scheduled that way to suit him; his picture everywhere; his interviews at the rate of four-six per phase, his rallies, his third-person self-referencing, this was a man who was in love with himself. It needed to be punctured. This ad does it. So did the voters. https://www.instagram.com/reel/C7QcirrNSZk/?igsh=MWFqMHVhYWU4a3pyaA== 

5. Akhilesh Yadav rallies the crowd

- Abhishek Raghunath, journalist turned content marketer

Where the ruling dispensation's campaign centred around the cult of Modi, the Opposition leaders' speeches and rallies were all about the issues that matter to the common man. They spoke in simple, clear language about ground realities.

Akhilesh Yadav was clearly the giant killer in these elections. And his Barabanki speech on May 12 is one of the best examples of how he tapped into the collective angst, generating a huge groundswell of support among the youth. Watch this clip on recruitments and paper leaks.   

Watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAjxvfXLMOM (watch time: 29:25 mins)

6. Amethi’s people challenge the BJP narrative

- Anmol Shrivastava, entrepreneur (in stealth mode)  

The Moment: Lallantop’s interviews with the people in Amethi challenged the narrative of a BJP clean sweep

[Watch time: 37:34 mins]

Sitting in our AC rooms in Mumbai, it’s very difficult to gauge the mood of the country. 

The narrative propelled by newsroom experts was that this election was a mere formality and a done deal. Like most of us, I was quite surprised when on June 4 it emerged that this was a much more tightly contested affair. Feels like a deja vu of Clinton versus Trump, when the mainstream media got its prediction completely wrong.

With 20/20 hindsight, my memorable moment therefore is this Lallantop video interviewing residents of Amethi at a chai stall. In a relaxed, fluid conversation, locals share that while they voted for Smriti Irani in 2019, this time around they will vote for the Congress. 

They cite various reasons including the failed promise around the reduced cost of cylinders, sugar and other items. 

The most memorable reason however was the lack of personal visits by the Minister. People of Amethi are used to personal visits by their leader or their deputies and Kishori Lal Sharma has a clear edge as he is friendly and known to most people. 

I ignored this video back then at my own peril considering it to be a one-off. I thought, how could BJP lose Uttar Pradesh after building the Ram Temple?

The lesson seems to be that relying solely on experts in the newsroom may not be sufficient. While chit-chats with rickshaw/taxi drivers, street food vendors, relatives/friends may help form a picture, given the diversity and colossal size of our country, it’s often several local reasons that combine to influence the voter. Listening to direct voices of people from diverse parts of a country, sourced through vox pop style of journalism, may be a good addition to the media diet to further understand the playing field.

7. The Kangana Ranaut incident

- Dinesh Narayanan, senior journalist and author

CISF constable Kulvinder Kaur, posted at Chandigarh airport, slapping Kangana Ranaut, actor and newly elected member of Parliament from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. 

To be clear, Kaur’s action is indefensible, particularly so because as a security personnel she is sworn to keep people safe. 

The incident, however, was the stinging result of India’s overwrought politics, the alienation of ordinary citizens and the slow deposit of economic insecurities. In today’s India, it doesn’t take a moment for concerns of individuals and communities to be delegitimised as terrorist tendencies and protests labelled as anti-national, be they of farmers or soldiers. Ironic that this is the same country where a Prime Minister once coined the pithy slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” to inspire several generations. Kaur is both a kisan and a jawan, and Ranaut is a controversial showbiz personality and newly minted politician far removed from ground realities.

8. Development takes centre stage in J&K 

- Jay Vikram Bakshi, digital entrepreneur 

[Watch time: 7:37 mins]]

Barkha Dutt and Mojo Story served some real eye-openers in a conversation with locals in Baramulla. They focussed on development issues like power outages, unrepaired internal roads, local jobs — possibly like any other place this LS2024 elections. I can't remember those as issues in strife-torn Kashmir since I first visited a polling booth in 1989. To add to that, the extraordinary voter turnout was poignant for me.  

(Editor’s Note: Sheikh Abdul Rashid alias Engineer Rashid, winning from Baramulla against Omar Abdullah by a huge margin is noteworthy too. He fought the elections from Tihar jail and political observers say his victory in many ways is the victory of Indian democracy. His son campaigned for him with no money or organisational backing—”a rare case of an organic campaign for a jailed leader.”)  

9. Ear to the ground vs. numbers

- Piyul Mukherjee, co-founder, Quipper Research

Two analysts whose interviews I followed closely in the past few months, were Prashant Kishore and Yogendra Yadav. And Yadav was consistent all through the polling phases about BJP falling short of a majority by itself, and the NDA scraping through. Kishore, who appeared to be dissing Modi and scoffing at the 400 number, was confident BJP would cross the 300 mark.

I must confess I found Yadav incredulous because he was backing his projections based on 'being on the road' over months rather than hard statistical numbers.

Having been a qualitative researcher all my life, I needed to have more faith in the actual face to face interactions with citizens that Yadav did! Across the length and breadth of India.

(And stop being so credulous about folks like Kishore who were successful in the past, but in this election, he seemed to have spent all his time in Bihar or in studios giving interviews.)

Other patterns in the tea leaves I should have given more credence to: 

1. The failure to hold Mumbai municipality elections over the last many years — BJP was itself well aware of its tenuous grip over Mumbai.

2. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is still alive and kicking. He is the true behind-the-scenes Chanakya

3. Congress is the only credible national alternative. Irrespective of those who claim to lead it.

This video is like many that came out towards May end. Both analysts consistently stuck to the numbers they predicted, across all interviews. This was one interview where their numbers were openly compared

10. A vigilant congress, and a more equal contest

- M Rajshekhar, energy reporter and author

Sometime on the evening of June 4, the penny dropped. 

Till that point, the 2024 elections had been festooned in electoral malfeasances. Some old — like voter suppression. Some new — like getting opposition candidates to withdraw their nominations. By the end of the 6th phase, the country had seen no less than 28 modes through which the BJP was trying to swing electoral advantage its way. In all this, the Election Commission was staying quiet. There were apprehensions that marginal seats could be tilted the BJP's way.  

But the Congress was on its toes — the approach seemed to be watchful during the process rather than complain about electoral malfeasance later.

That evening, when Jairam Ramesh tweeted asking why counting had slowed in UP and Bihar, those fears intensified. 

What happened next, however, was very different. By this time, the Election Commission, which had called concerns about electoral malpractice “fake narratives” and “toolkits” just the previous day, had turned more circumspect. With INDIA doing better than the BJP, it too was in the dark regarding who would form the next government. 

Despite a number of closely fought constituencies in the fray, final numbers did not change dramatically. (Also watch Kapil Sibal explaining guidelines to counting agents.)

I see hope here. Too many people at the helm of India's democratic institutions have been opportunistic, allying with political power in the hope of rewards. As the contest between the NDA and the INDIA alliances becomes more equal, one hopes again that they will cease playing a partisan role.

11. “Aapne unko haraa diya”

- Mitu Jayashankar, strategic communications advisor

The moment I want to talk about is this speech in UP, when Priyanka Gandhi Vadra went to address the public and the lights went out. She stood on what looks like a jeep and talked. There’s a moment in this speech where she tells the public that when they were angry with Indira Gandhi, they defeated her. “Aapne unko haraa diya.” That was interesting, the way she reminded them that they hold the real power. (The full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WwEDA75Iag)

12. The return of the OG

- Indrajit Gupta, co-founder, Founding Fuel

The Moment: Dr Prannoy Roy and his wife Radhika, erstwhile co-founders of NDTV and the pioneers of live election coverage in India, were back with their new digital news platform, deKoder. Launched in January this year, their calm and thoughtful analysis around Elections2024 immediately found an audience, weaned over the years on NDTV, this time on YouTube and Twitter. 

What worked: If experts had any doubts whether the Roys, now in their mid-70s, could turn on the old NDTV election magic in the digital age, they were in for a surprise. At a time when noisy, cantankerous anchors and breathless breaking news are the order of the day, deKoder brought back the focus on crisp analysis and distilled wisdom, coupled with Dr Roy’s innate charm as an anchor. 

Take a look at the Countdown Maharashtra show (watch time: 46:18 mins), aired nearly two weeks ago, with Girish Kuber, the editor of Loksatta and researcher Dorab Sopariwala. It simply cut through the clutter—and also got the predictions bang on.

13. The conquered conquers

- Charles Assisi, co-founder, Founding Fuel

Once upon a time, opposition parties were at the receiving end of targeted social media posts. The tables have turned and @INCKerala leads the charge.

The opposition parties managed to beat the BJP hands down on social media. Leading the charge was @INCKerala, the X handle of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee. This was the place where the tone to take on the BJP was set nationally. This is very different from the last general election when the social media narrative was set by the BJP. 

The handle grabbed attention earlier in May this year when it put out data in the public domain that “over 50% of Vande Bharat runs either operate with empty or partially filled seats”. The thread on X went viral and Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology felt compelled to respond and argue on occupancy rates. But this didn’t stop @INCKerala from raking up the issue and asking the minister to reveal his sources.

From then on, the team at work on the handle have been at it relentlessly. While they’ve taken the BJP head-on, their memes are brutal as well. By way of example, a few minutes after PM Modi lifted the Constitution of India, the team hammered him with a dialogue from Vijay’ Tamil blockbuster movie Thuppakki.  

Totally unsurprising then why this handle has now raked in over 110,000 followers in a few weeks and is being talked about in the media. A detailed story in The Print on the people running the show has much else to share. And it seems they’re going to take shots at the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana. How times change! 

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Harsh Vardhan on Jun 08, 2024 7:34 a.m. said

It was a mixed feeling early morning, waiting for the results. They were to be as expected, with some surprises of course. Poll hype clouded our senses. But was completely taken aback what I saw as the day unfolded. My first reaction was “how is it possible?” UP? And Modi trailing? But ‘why’ quickly turned into ‘why not’. Being a marketer for decades one lesson I have learnt is not to take your consumer for granted. I remember my ex-boss Late Sri AGK Murthy of Mudra who used to say “Consumers don’t listen, they won’t tell you what they want; they’ll surprise you just when you thought you got them”. This election to me was a high pitch campaign that made little sense, irrespective of the party that made it.

About the author

Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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